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JORDAN: Al Qaeda-linked group accused in attack on choir

January 28, 2009 |  1:04 pm

An Al Qaeda-linked group was allegedly responsible for a violent attack on a Christian choir group in the Jordanian capital of Amman last July, authorities revealed Tuesday.

The incident took place in a downtown Amman neighborhood. A gunman opened fire on a bus full of tourists, wounding six, including four Lebanese musicians from a university choir.

After months of investigation, a group of 12 Jordanians of Palestinian origin were put on trial Tuesday on charges that included July's shooting.

Their indictment alleged that the group's mastermind, Shaker Khatib, was trained by a Lebanese offshoot of Osama bin Laden's organization.

He was supposed to be sent to fight the jihad in Iraq. But the 28-year-old man had allegedly returned to Jordan instead to establish his own militant cell.

Khatib and the other men were also accused of hurling Molotov cocktails at a Christian church and possession of illegal weapons.

The charge sheet stated that the men decided to unleash their anger against Christians in Jordan after they heard word of a young Christian man sending mobile phone messages profaning Islam's prophet Muhammad.

According to an Associated Press report, the trial was postponed until Feb. 3 because the suspects did not have attorneys to defend them.

If convicted, the men could be sentenced to death.

Jordanian authorities say they have thwarted several attacks by Islamists in the last few years. In 2005, an Iraqi female would-be suicide bomber and associates from Al Qaeda in Iraq were sentenced to death for carrying out  simultaneous attacks at three hotels in Amman killing more than 60 people.

-- Raed Rafei in Beirut

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